Friday, 3 October 2008

10 Reasons why Bigfoot is Stupid

Bigfoot is the common name for the giant humanoid creature that has been reported seen on numerous occasions in places such as the US (particularly the Appalachians and the Rockies) and the Himalayas. Although Bigfoot is the American popular term it is also known there as Sasquatch. In the Himalayas it is often called the Yeti or Abominable Snowman. Nevertheless this giant humanoid is claimed by many to exist.

The study of Bigfoot falls under cryptozoology. Cryptozoology is

  1. the study of animals thought to have long been extinct and
  2. the study of animals that have yet to be proven empirically to exist.

It is known that giant humanoids once existed on the planet. Gigantopithecus, for example, was a 3m (10ft) tall ape that roamed parts of Asia up until a few hundred thousand years ago. Could Bigfoot be a relative or Gigantopithecus? This is certainly suggested by certain cryptozoologists. Species such as the “fossil fish” ceolacanth were thought to have been long extinct until they were discovered as recently as the early 20th century. So perhaps Bigfoot falls into the first group?

It is also possible that Bigfoot could fall into the 2nd group. Creatures such as the Giant Squid (the legendary kraken) were thought to be simply maritime legend until the 19th century when part of a giant squid was discovered. It was only in the 21st century that a live giant squid was photographed. So occasionally mythical creatures are proven to exist.

However what evidence do we have for the existence of Bigfoot and how likely is Bigfoot to exist? The following 10 points should lead to the conclusion that the existence of Bigfoot is…well…rubbish or at least very unlikely.

  1. No body. Until a body is found, scientists have to remain sceptical of the existence of the creature. For there to be a significant population of Bigfoot there has to be a significant number of skeletons and corpses. After much searching and much exploration of the woods and mountainous areas of the US over much time, a body has yet to be found.
  2. No fossil record. No evidence of great apes existing in North America has ever been found. While absence of evidence is not evidence of absence it certainly reduces the probability of existence given the amount of zoological data for other creatures in North America.
  3. No breeding population. If Bigfoot exists and is closely related to humans there would need to be a significant population to ensure genetic diversity. Some estimates are around 5000-10,000 individuals at least. Such a large population would significantly reduce the probability of them not being found. It’s not impossible, but it is highly unlikely.
  4. Similar looking animals exist. Bears and bison abound in the United States and have similar colouring and shape to a Bigfoot. This would explain away many of the credulous reported sightings of a bipedal, brown and furry creature.
  5. Similar habitat theory. Closely related creatures are generally attracted to similar habitats and food sources. This would make the possibility of human contact more likely although of course not certain, certainly more likely.
  6. The Patterson Video. The Patterson Video is arguably the best piece of evidence for the existence of Bigfoot. This video made in 1967 shows an ape like creature walking by a river. The original footage is rather blurry and shaky leaving very little clear evidence that this is not a man in a suit (I’ve left a link to an edited version that has the shaking removed). Pro Bigfoot advocates claim that various aspects of the subject’s walk including muscle-tone, gait, arm proportions and wrist movements are evidence that the subject is not human. This “evidence” anomaly spotting should be considered in context of the film’s quality. There is also a claim that the alleged costume is too realistic to actually be a costume and would have cost too much to produce. Penn and Teller have shown that a convincing costume would not actually cost that much and given the distance from the camera from which the “Bigfoot” was, that this claim is false. The rest of the evidence for its credibility (and for it as a hoax) is really based on character judgments, 2nd hand testimonies, hearsay and legend. Nevertheless there is clear doubt and the burden of providing evidence should be left with the advocates of Bigfoot’s existence.
  7. Hoaxes. It is often cited that the shear number of sightings of Bigfoot and footprints suggest that the existence of Bigfoot is credible. However it is also suggested by cryptozoologists that as many as 70-80% of these Bigfoot “events” are hoaxes. Some of the more famous sightings including the Ray Wallace footprints in 1958, his audio recordings and photos have emerged as hoaxes too.
  8. Patterns of sightings. As with alien sightings, crop circles and other apparent paranormal events, Bigfoot sightings often occur in patterns and are thought to be driven by the popular media and the popularising of the creature. While humanoid mythical figures exist in very many cultures around the world (elves, angels, tokkelosh, leprechauns) and there is native American folklore surrounding Bigfoot, the reported sightings of Bigfoot grew significantly subsequent to the Wallace 1958 claim. While this does not negate perhaps the few seemingly credible evidence it does bring into question most of the reporting sightings.
  9. Footprints and dermal ridges. It is reported that many of the Bigfoot prints contain dermal ridges (fingerprints) that would be difficult to fake. It is suggested that these ridges provide significant evidence towards the prints’ authenticity. Fingerprint experts while claiming that the dermal ridges are convincing, they can be faked. Whether these are or are not genuine Bigfoot prints is not really significant enough due to the doubt and possibility of faking.
  10. Ultimately no credible evidence exists. Neither Blood nor DNA evidence exists proving the existence of a hominid. And Bigfoot hunters and sceptics alike will agree that the only credible evidence for the existence of Bigfoot will be DNA or preferably a body (dead or alive). Until then we might as well be trying to prove that pink unicorns don’t exist. The burden of proof therefore lies with the Bigfoot proponents. While it’s not 100% impossible that Bigfoot exists, the lack of significant evidence thus far would suggest that Bigfoot is unfortunately a modern day myth.
...and their associated links